We're going to be touring pre-CES and CES show floors looking for interesting things to make note of, and already found something that piqued our attention. While walking around CES Unveiled, one device which caught our eye was the Parrot Asteroid, a single DIN sized head unit for vehicles - that's nothing out of the ordinary, except the Asteroid runs Android.

The Asteroid includes a 3.2 inch screen on the front which unfortunately isn't touch sensitive, however the Parrot has written its own Android UI to mitigate the lack of touch input. Reps weren't sure what version of Android the Asteroid was running, but noted that development has been going on for a little over two years, which leads us to suspect the 1.6 sort.

The head unit has no fewer than three USB ports on the rear for connecting a 3G dongle, GPS dongle, and removable storage, and a fourth dedicated for iDevices. On the front underneath the removable faceplate is a slot for SD cards. 

The Parrot will have its own SDK and marketplace for applications - necessitated by that lack of traditional touch input. Parrot will provide first party maps support (and hopefully turn by turn navigation if you include 3G and GPS), as well as audio playback and library support for iDevices and external storage. There isn't any word on what codecs are supported, but it's reasonable to expect the same suite of codecs as you'd get in stock Android. The usual Bluetooth, AM/FM and RDS support (like you'd expect from a head unit) will also be present. Parrot is shooting for availability early 2011. 

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  • alovell83 - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    I know they've been developing forever, and that it's hard to scrap all your work, however Chrome OS is designed for mouse and keyboard input. It seems like an easier adaptation, additionally, if this concept becomes popular I think it'll be more successful with Chrome OS so people might be buying into this device and getting little developer support. Sales can, of course, prove me wrong.
  • probedb - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    But it's a head unit for a car, how exactly would you use a mouse and keyboard while driving? Android is in wide use, Chrome OS is not, it wouldn't make any sense to use Chrome OS.
  • mino - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    "Chrome OS" is:
    1) not an operating system but a browser on-top-of-a-locked-down-OS
    2) not of any use here as the 3" screen is anything a but useable for browsing the internet
    3) more resource-heavy by definition while providing no real benefit

    Going for a custom UI like Parrot did is VERY good idea if executed properly. Simple UI is what a car media/GPS device needs the most.
  • nafhan - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    Plus, Chrome OS isn't even stable at this point. Android 1.6 is rock solid in comparison.
  • Einy0 - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    Awesome idea but unless I can hook up an external USB CD-ROM on one of those USB ports to play CDs, I'm not interested. I love solid-state media but the beloved CD still rules my car. Most of them have MP3/WMA/AAC files on them anyway but if a friend hops in the car with a new CD, I wanna listen to it then. I don't wanna rip music just to listen to it. I know this isn't the only head unit on the market with no CD drive, I'm just making a point. Put a CD or DVD drive in this bad boy with a reasonable price tag and it will sell.
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    To keep a usable sized screen they'd need to go to a 2 din form factor, which they probably should do anyway. 3.5" is annoyingly small for a GPS on the windshield, and that's a much easier to glance at location...
  • Pessimism - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    Okay grandpa, lets do some simple math:
    16GB SDHC card, approx. $30

    For sake of argument, we will assume (laughably) that every released CD album is a full 80 minutes long and you will be storing the music losslessly in unaltered WAV format for 700MB per album.

    Lets also assume a CD takes ten minutes to rip to the SDHC card (really it takes closer to 5)

    22 CDs x 700MB = 15400MB
    22 x 10 minutes = 3 hours, 40 minutes rip time
    22 x 80 minutes = 29 hours play time

    So, you would rather carry around a bulky case full of easily damaged media that has no backup if lost, and add a bulky disc handling mechanism to the head unit, which would make the units depth long enough to render the jacks on the back unusable, or add an unwieldy external USB cdrom with a fragile cable dongle and no design considerations for automotive use (shock and temperature tolerances are big ones) so that you don't have to spend $30 and one evening of your time to convert 29 hours of music (more than you will ever need even for a 24 hour consecutive daytrip) to media the size of a postage stamp that is shockproof, scratchproof, easily backed up, and never requires you to take your attention off the road to change discs?
  • Spivonious - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    Hey now, I'm only 28 and the CD is still my primary form of music media (although vinyl is quickly taking over...it just sounds better).

    The problem with your SD card solution is that I would have to plan in advance what CDs I wanted to listen to. I can't just grab one of the shelf as I'm heading out to the car.

    Adding a CD drive to this head unit would be trivial. Even selling it as a separate option would be fine. Put those USB ports to good use.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    You could probably add a USB CD drive to one of the USB ports on the back, this is what most people with a carputer do if for some reason they need CD capability.

    I actually do use the CD drive in my headunit, but only because the headunit doesn't support playlists off of USB storage. So I have a few discs of random MP3s burned for when I want a random mix and full albums on my USB storage. In my last car where I had a carputer I never had optical disc capability and never missed it, I had a USB port next to the screen to hook up my phone/flash drive/MP3 player if needed.

    This unit looks very shallow, so there is probably space to reorganize stuff and add a CD drive for a possible other model. The screen couldn't be fixed the way it is now though.
  • Flyboy27 - Wednesday, January 5, 2011 - link

    I'm 29 and my first question was where is the CD drive? I have a lot of stuff that could go on an SD card but I still want a CD drive.

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